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Changes Coming To The Scotiabank Gold American Express

There are changes coming the Scotiabank Gold Amex in August 2019 that are turning it into the best rewards credit card – but that’s in August. For now, it’s a mid-range card that’s still pretty good but not the best.

A couple reasons for the change are the boost in rewards earning, the removal of the foreign transaction fee, and the flexibility of Scotia points.

First – the changes to rewards. The Gold Amex is boosting 3 categories to 5 points per dollar: groceries, dining, and entertainment.

The entertainment category is fairly lackluster in my opinion, as entertainment spending doesn’t make up a large portion of the typical person’s budget. To clarify, by entertainment I mean what the credit card companies qualify as entertainment. Things like movie theatres, sports events, amusement parks, and the zoo all fall under the entertainment category, but things like buying a book or movie on DVD, renting a bicycle or leisure vehicle, or going clothes shopping are NOT considered entertainment by credit card companies. Because entertainment is so strangely specific, it’s hard to work into your daily life. On the other hand, it’s really good for travelers, since basically every tourist attraction counts as entertainment.

Groceries is an excellent rewards category, as everyone needs to eat. Coupled with restaurants, where Canadians have been spending more and more every year, and you have a winning combination! (Even though I might personally consider restaurants as “entertainment”)

Unfortunately, gas is being bumped down 25% to just 3 points per dollar from 4. This is an all-around bad change if you ever buy gas, but has a small silver lining. Since rewards are determined by the merchant and not the item you’re buying, you can actually now earn 5 points per dollar on gas so long as you buy gas gift cards from grocery stores. Finally, they’re adding streaming services like Netflix as a bonus category. This is completely underwhelming, as the typical Netflix subscription will earn you about $6 over the course of a year, but I’m not going to complain about a free $6.

Second – the removal of the foreign exchange fee.

I hate this thing. It’s the reason that nearly everything you buy in a foreign country or from an American, European, or Asian website is 2.5% more expensive. You’re charged an additional 2.5% on any foreign transaction (including online transactions done from within Canada) on most credit cards. It comes down to greed from the banks, and it’s super frustrating since there are only a handful of cards that let you circumvent this charge.

Unless you were already using one of the few credit cards with no foreign transaction fee, you’ll immediately see a savings of 2.5% on anything purchased in USD, euros, or any other currency. That can often be better than cash back!

Third – the flexibility of Scotia points. It’s nice to have a rewards program that is both easy to use and has transparent value.

1 Scotia point = 1 cent, in basically every case. You can book travel wherever you want, pay using your Scotia card, then pay off your balance with points without having to use some asinine system like expediafortd.com or calling the CIBC travel concierge.

But until August, I’ll stick with my Cobalt.

Chris Chris 06/11/2019
Canadian personal finance buff and all-around writing enthusiast, Chris loves breaking down complicated money ideas to show that they're really not so complex. 
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